How to Build Your Own Mechanical Keyboard
Building a custom mechanical keyboard might sound hard in theory but in reality, you just need to buy all of the necessary parts and assemble them. It is actually modding your parts from the custom keyboard that can take a lot of time.
Today we will talk about all the individual pieces you need to build a custom mechanical keyboard and give you some tips and tricks regarding what you should look out for. And of course, will tell you how to put it all together.
Keyboard Case, Plate, and PCB
The first step you need to take is to select what kind of keyboard case you want to build your keyboard in. Based on the case you will select the size of your keyboard (60%, 65%, 80%, etc), you will also need a PCB that will fit, and in most cases a plate for your keyboard.
You can technically also build a keyboard without a plate if your PCB supports PCB-mounted switches, but generally, keyboards that use a plate for mounting their switches have sturdier build quality.
For the case and the plate, you will need to figure out the material you want to be used. The most popular choices for custom keyboard cases are aluminum, plastic, and acrylic. Plates usually come in brass, aluminum, and polycarbonate.
The choice of PCB will dictate the layout of your switches/keys and the RGB properties of your keyboard. If you want things like dedicated arrow keys for smaller keyboards make sure to purchase a PCB that supports those features.
A good example of these choices can be found here, where you can choose the material and color of your case/plate and are provided with a PCB that already works and fits with the keyboard.
The materials used for the case and the plate will heavily influence the type of sound your switches will produce and the way the keyboard will look overall, so do enough research about your future purchase.
These are special cutouts made out of foam that can dampen some of the switch ping making them more muted. Depending on the amount of foam and where it’s placed you can make your custom keyboard sound just the way you want!
Mechanical Switches and Stabilizers
The second fundamental choice you will have to make is what kind of switches will you be using in your build. This will heavily dictate how your typing experience will go. Do you want linear switches or tactile? What spring weight do you prefer? What kind of housing material sounds better?
Depending on how you answer those questions you will arrive at different results for what switches you want to use in your build. If you have no idea where to even start, look at our list of the best current switches you can purchase.
If the case and plate are the foundations of the mechanical keyboard you are building then the switches are its heart. Essentially your entire custom keyboard experience will be shaped by the combination of these items so choose carefully!
Besides the switches, there is another component you need to decide on when building your custom mechanical keyboard – the stabilizers. In most cases, you will receive stabilizers along with your PCB, but these are usually not the best choices.
Having a rattly stabilizer will ruin your experience therefore you need to make sure you purchase a good product.
It’s Lubing Time!
If you thought you were done with the switches and the stabilizers you are wrong. This is because if you are building a custom keyboard, not lubing your mechanical switches and stabilizers is like using ketchup for making pizza instead of tomato sauce – not a criminal offense, but people will hate you.
This is also a favor to yourself because this process will GREATLY improve your custom board’s acoustic and typing experience.
As mentioned in our guide, certain tools are optional (switch opener, stem holder) since you can use a pair of tweezers to get the job done, but having the tools will make your life a lot easier.
Be mentally prepared because this process can take up to 8 hours or more depending on the number of switches (+stabilizers) you will have to lube. This can be daunting but having some video to watch, or some relaxing music goes a long way.
Just think of this process as a relaxing time for yourself and you will be done in no time. You can also lube the switches in batches instead of doing them all in one sitting which will make the process a bit easier.
Keycaps and Custom Cables!
To finish up your custom keyboard build you will need to select a set of keycaps and a custom keyboard cable. These are purely aesthetic choices but are still important since you want your board to look nice.
You would want to match the color of the keyboard case with the color of the cable and the color of the keycaps to create a unified image so choose carefully. Keycap sets can become pretty expensive so be careful with your design choices because you might end up spending more than 200$ on just keycaps.
All that is left is to assemble your custom keyboard from 0. Take your case, put in whatever foam you deemed necessary, and screw the PCB in (should have the stabilizers already mounted).
Put the plate on top and slide the switches in (if you use the plate foam don’t forget to put it between the plate and PCB). Place your keycaps on the switches and plug in your keyboard cable.
Now your custom keyboard build is officially completed and you can look at the stock keyboard users and laugh (not mandatory but a nice step overall).
Enjoy your thick thocks and smooth typing experience!
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